Annibal, tragédie en 2 actes. Par M C*** agé de quatorze ans.
HANNIBAL (c. 1800])
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Manuscript on paper, first page with monogram 'CB' and olive crown and branches, text in French verse (Alexandrines) written in brown ink, within a decorative manuscript border of turquoise and pink, lined in pencil.
Obl. 4to (245 x173mm). 38 leaves (pp., 72 numbered in manuscript). Contemporary French binding of green morocco, gilt spine, all edges gilt, pink endpapers, red silk page marker (slight mark on upper and lower covers, corners bumped and rubbed).
A charming manuscript of an impressive, if melodramatic two-act 'tragédie', written by a fourteen-year-old, 'M. C***'. Heavy on dialogue but comparatively light on stage directions, the play recounts the events leading up to the suicide of Carthaginian general Hannibal in c.183 BC in Bithynia.
The five characters are Prusias, King of Bithynia; Flaminius, Roman ambassador; Annibal (Hannibal), Arbax, confidant of Prusias and Oronite[s], confidant of Hannibal. Prusias (243-182 BC) at one point harboured Hannibal, and was entreated by the Romans in 183 BC, in the figure of ambassador Titus Quinctius Flaminius, to hand him over; it is this event with which the play here opens:
Prusias. Romain, que cherchez vous? où portez vous vos pas?
Flaminius. Je vous cherche, Seigneur, je viens dans vos états./pour vous donner la paix, ou vous donner la guerre/Rome veut Annibal, il faut la satisfaire.
This play ends with Hannibal deciding that he would rather feel poison circulating in his veins than be a captive of the Romans - 'je voux mourir libre' - and with his last words he melodramatically bids Prusias adieu - 'Prince, adieu pour toujours soyez sur qu'Annibal meurt votre ami fidele, et non votre rival'.
While composing this piece, the teenage 'M. C***' would not have been short of accounts of this event, as it can be found richly recorded in both classical and contemporary sources. Flaminius' embassy and no-nonsense approach evident here is related in Plutarch's life of Flaminius, and is also mentioned by Livy. Hannibal's tragic end and the negotiations that prompted it were also a rich source of inspiration for eighteenth- and nineteenth-century writers, and the events leading up to his death were repeatedly fictionalized by playwrights and poets; in his Annibal of 1820, Marivaux focused principally on a love triangle between the eponymous general, Prusias' daughter and Flaminius; A.J. Prost published a play Annibal ches Prusias. Tragedie en trois actes et en vers, Avignon, 1822; Pierre Henri Bellot des Minières wrote a further play in five acts in 1832; and later in the 19th century the German writer Ernst Eckstein (1845-1900) published a novel Prusias in 1854, which was translated into English by Clara Bell.
Occasional pencil corrections to this work suggest that it might have been a work 'written up' in the course of tutorship or instruction.
Very occasional foxing, otherwise a clean, attractive work.
Stock Code: 216852